Due to new restrictions on entry points into Gaza imposed in June 2007, ANERA has discovered greater challenges in providing aid to Gaza
Crossing closures mean supplies can’t come in, which has a tremendous effect on the local economy. Contractors, for instance, can’t work when construction materials aren’t available. Families end up suffering the consequences, from the newly unemployed to the children who look to them for support.
Despite these constraints, ANERA remains committed to providing as much humanitarian aid to Gaza as possible. One success has been the Milk for Preschoolers project which works to alleviate alarming rates of malnutrition by delivering daily rations of milk and fortified biscuits to preschoolers in more than 150 schools.
Milk for Preschoolers was initiated by ANERA in February 2003 to serve several thousand children around the region. As part of its continued desire to serve impoverished Palestinians, ANERA will provide up to 20,000 preschoolers with a much-needed source of nutrition during the upcoming school year.
In 2007 , the Milk for Preschoolers project played a role in Gaza summer camps for 3,000 preschoolers. “Last year, the kids were sad at the end of the school year,” says Sabreen, a teacher at the Noor El-Amal preschool. “This summer, the camps allow children to continue developing their minds and bodies.”
Aid to Gaza Goes Beyond Temporary Relief
In addition to providing a reliable source of nutrition, Milk for Preschoolers offers teachers training in nutritional education and the role of play as important in the growth and psychological wellbeing of children. At camp, teachers guide children through a balanced day of regular educational activities and interventions that remove some negative pressures from their lives. Students spend hours using their imagination by drawing houses, trees and birds. Later, students lie on the floor and close their eyes for a few moments while Sabreen plays calming music.
Mona, another teacher, focuses on the educational component of the project. “Sometimes I’ll bring vegetables and fruits to school. The parents join us and we teach kids how to make a healthy meal.” Milk for Preschoolers instructs mothers in proper nutritional practices as well as information on health and hygiene.
An already tough economic situation in Gaza recently became much worse. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau, 47% of the working population has lost its source of income and the average daily wages for employed Gazans is $2. Over 85% of the total population now receives some type of food support. Children can feel the tension at home.
Summer camps provide children with a chance to be kids and have fun in a safe environment. “We need to help them release stress,” says Mona. “They need to live young and a project like Milk for Preschoolers is like water on a sunny day in the desert.”